By Jim Marco
In the 1920s and 1930s, Elton Mayo conducted a series of experiments at the Hawthorne Electric Plant near Chicago. The study was intended to find out how different aspects of the work environment, like lighting, the timing of breaks and the length of the workday affected worker productivity.
The hypothesis was to see if changes in these environmental factors could increase productivity. The researchers found that productivity increased, for a while, and returned to normal once the experiment was over. This became known as “The Hawthorne Effect.”
We read a lot today about the new workplace; flexible office space, fully stocked kitchens, ping pong tables, bean bag chairs, stand up desks, even bringing dogs to work. Employers are trying to copy the superficial trappings of really successful companies like Google and Apple. They hope that these trappings will create a “culture” that will allow them to achieve some terrific level of success.
It won’t, and these programs will be abandoned, because the companies will not get the desired productivity or engagement boost from their workforces. Like Hawthorne electric, the effect is only temporary.
Perk’s, benefits, and even pay do not create culture. Culture is created in the daily interactions between and among staff, and between staff and management. Study after study has shown that an employee’s relationship with their supervisor or manager has a direct and significant impact on that employee’s overall job engagement and satisfaction. Culture isn’t just what we expect, but it is also what we allow.
Recently, I was asked to prepare a presentation on motivating millennials. As I started to prepare the presentation, I realized that we have known, for nearly a century, what motivates millennials.
It’s what motivates the rest of us, millennials are simply more vocal about it. Dale Carnegie told us in the 1930s, Frederick Hertzberg in the 1960s, W. Edwards Deming in the 1980s, Daniel Goleman and John Maxwell in the 1990s, Simon Sinek as recently as 2014, and more recently the Gallup Organization.
What comes out again and again are the traits of effective leadership, concepts like empathy, meaningful work, emotionally safe work environments, and integrity. But, why aren’t we listening?
Here are some of the ideas from the authors noted above:
From Dale Carnegie: Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
From W. Edwards Deming: Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people …do a better job. Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship.
From Daniel Goleman: First of all, people who are in control of their feelings and impulses. That is, people who are reasonable, are able to create an environment of trust and fairness. In such an environment, politics and infighting are sharply reduced, and productivity is high.
From John C. Maxwell: Leaders add value by serving others. Trust is the foundation of leadership. Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand. Leaders find a way for the team to win. The most important ingredient of leadership: Integrity.
And from Simon Sinek in “Leaders Eat Last,” outlines a philosophy and strategy to lead, build trust and inspire our people to take care of an support each other. Good leaders must truly care about those entrusted to their care. A close study of high performing organizations, the ones in which the people feel safe when they come to work, reveals something astounding … If certain conditions are met and the people inside an organization feel safe among each other, they will work together to achieve things that none of them could have ever achieved alone.
From Gallup, a recent survey found that: a company’s productivity depends, to a high degree, on the quality of its managers. “What no one saw coming,” however, was the sheer size of that correlation, something Gallup calls “the single most profound, distinct and clarifying finding” in its 80-year history. The study showed that managers didn’t just influence the results their teams achieved, they explained a full 70 percent of the variance.
In other words, if it’s a superior team you’re after, hiring the right manager (or properly developing and preparing the right person to manage) is nearly three-fourths of the battle. No other single factor, from compensation levels to the perception of senior leadership, even came close. “That blew me out of my chair,” says Jim Clifton, Gallup’s chief executive.”
The evidence is clear, dogs and ping pong tables will not get your company to the “next level.” What are you doing to prepare your managers to lead, before they become managers? Should your managers be entrusted with the care of those they supervise?
Marco is president and principal consultant at Saratoga Human Resources Solutions, Inc.
By Jim Marco